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Hawks, Burnette Resign from SDDP, Declare Need for Alternative Means of Supporting Candidates and Fighting for Future

I got an e-mail this afternoon from the Brown County Democratic Party inviting me to their monthly meeting tomorrow evening at 7 at City Lights to hear guest speaker and South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Paula Hawks.

That e-mail was sandwiched by forwards from friends noting that the Brown County Dems will need to amend their agenda. Earlier this afternoon, Hawks and SDDP exe Stacye Burnette announced their resignation.

Hawks and Burnette aren’t giving up on electing Democrats in South Dakota. Quite the contrary: they are saying they want to devote their time and energy into practical action that will help Democrats win elections in 2020, not throw their efforts into the black hole of past mistakes:

From: South Dakota Democratic Party <>
Sent: Wed, Oct 23, 2019, 01:55 PM
Subject: SDDP Resignation

Members of the South Dakota Democratic Party Executive Board and State Central Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as leaders of the South Dakota Democratic Party for the last several months. What we’ve determined in this short period of time is that the current party structure and financial status does not require the attention we originally set out to give this organization. It has become clear that the support Democratic candidates and elected officials need in 2020 is inconsistent with maintaining the bureaucracy of this organization. There is too much work required by the traditional political party structure that in no way benefits the efforts of candidates and elected officials committing their energy to tackling the challenges facing South Dakotans. It has also certainly been difficult to move an organization such as this forward when the governing body is still looking to the past to guide decisions.

In light of that, it is our view the SDDP would best function as a more streamlined entity with less internal management. Frankly, our skills and services aren’t required for an organization whose sole focus can only be on fundraising to rectify past mistakes. We feel strongly that our efforts should be recruiting and supporting a new generation of strong progressive candidates and leaders. We believe voters ultimately choose elected officials based on their individual merit, ideas, and hard work, not because of anything being done separately by a political organization.

We will continue to independently work hard for Democratic candidates in South Dakota, and we wish nothing but success in the ongoing efforts to manage the SDDP.

Our resignations from the positions of State Chairwoman and Executive Director are effective immediately.  For anyone wishing to discuss the deeper matters concerned with these resignations, please reach out to Randy Seiler, State Vice Chairman.


Paula Hawks, State Chairwoman
Stacey Burnette, Executive Director

[Paula Hawks and Stacey Burnette, e-mail from SDDP to Executive Board and State Central Committee, 2019.10.23]

Hmmm… if Paula still wants to make the drive, she might still make for a fascinating guest speaker on how to fight for the future in South Dakota from outside the Democratic Party. Hmmmm… independent action? Vigorous PAC action? A third party?

Hawks’s resignation elevates Vice-Chair Randy Seiler to the unwanted position of party leader. He tells SDPB’s Lee Strubinger he’s calling an emergency meeting of the SDDP Executive Board Saturday to discuss replacements and direction. (Hint: the direction is forward, same as where our eyes ought to be focused. Declare bankruptcy, dissolve the party, and follow Paula and Stacey into some new form of positive progressivism activism to save this state from swirling down the Trumpistani drain!)


  1. grudznick 2019-10-23 18:32

    Mr. PP and the Rapid City Journal already notified grudznick of this sad news, but I have faith in Mr. Seiler to pull the nose of the beast back up and head away from crashing into the rocks below.

  2. SDBlue 2019-10-23 18:42

    Geez…I was just begging for your insight on Facebook and here you are!! Thank you for giving us more details than the KELO story that popped into my timeline. Imho, you are the only real progressive voice in SD media and I am forever grateful for your presence here.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-23 19:22

    The rocks below? There’s still further for the party to fall?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-23 19:26

    Thanks, SDBlue! Keep the faith—Paula and Stacey still want to do good; they just want to do that good without an organization that they feel keeps them from doing that good.

    [By the way, SDBlue, I’ve given up on interacting on Facebook. Zuckerberg is a menace, and his surveillance/advertising tool wastes my time. My RSS feed automatically sends my blog headlines to the Dakota Free Press FB page, but I don’t engage with commenters there or respond to FB messages. I don’t check Facebook unless I am looking for information on people in the news. I’d delete my personal account completely, but I need an account to keep posting the DFP feed, and FB makes it tedious, if not impossible, to delete one’s personal content.]

  5. grudznick 2019-10-23 19:28

    It could come out, Mr. H, that there was corruption and skullduggery in the highest levels of the party which was then invested in the Gear-Ups. Or, after this next year, there could be even fewer or no (D) in the legislatures, and 104 (R) and 1 (I).

  6. Gideon Oakes 2019-10-23 20:19

    The SD Democratic Party has devolved into little more than a glorified PAC for the Clinton machine, spinning old-timer tales of how things used to be 20 years ago. The Libertarian Party of South Dakota welcomes disenchanted Democrats and Republicans alike into our folds. If you are committed to both fiscal responsibility and social tolerance, you have a home with us.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-23 20:24

    Hey, Gideon, thanks for the invitation! Who’s your party running next year?

    Fiscla responsibility and social tolerance—that’s all? Heck, I can fit through that door. I wonder if Paula and Stacey would be interested.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-23 20:26

    Given that GEAR UP didn’t have any impact on Republican candidates, I don’t see why it would have impact on Democratic candidates, if your hypothetical became a reality.

  9. El Rayo X 2019-10-23 20:32

    Even the most inexperienced money launderers keep enough of the take to keep the boat afloat. Or not. Call Hillary, explain that her scam plooked the SDDP and make it right. Have her reach into the Clinton Foundation, grab a hand full and pass it on to the SDDP. Or better yet, keep it home grown, Tim Johnson is sitting on a pile campaign funds just collecting dust. Someone call Tim.

  10. Deb 2019-10-23 20:37

    We have our eyes on the future and nose to the grindstone. It’s not been easy in this state but we will move forward. I have never been one to give up.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2019-10-23 20:39

    “glorified PAC for the Clinton machine”, seriously?

  12. Debbo 2019-10-23 20:50

    I have faith in Paula, Stacey and Randy. I suggest keeping an eye on what they’re up to. In addition, Cory, it might be worthwhile to do a post on LEAD SD. I’m pretty sure they’re Progressives. Sometimes unaffiliated groups are very effective due to the freedom that lack of affiliation gives them.

  13. Roger Cornelius 2019-10-23 20:55

    Better yet, John Thune is sitting on $12 million in cash, more then anybody else in congress, maybe he has some spare change.

  14. Brian 2019-10-23 20:59

    As a independent leaning dem, sd dem party has been in shambles for awhile, when over 8 members (1 on a powerful Ag committee) all voted to privatize public trust waters I knew right then and there our party was gone for in sd. They went to the big business/corporation voting way. And after meeting sutton I knew we didnt have a chance, he didnt have the leadership skills to win in sd . Now they flushed down the toilet the quality people by denying them a platform to run on. Sad. We need tom Daschle back

  15. Jenny 2019-10-23 21:29

    So what is going on? Man, how depressing it must be to be a Democrat in SD. I feel for you my SD friends.

  16. El Rayo X 2019-10-23 21:59

    Roger, maybe Sen Thune should bail out the SD Democratic party. Maybe raising $12 million in re-election money when he runs unopposed might have him feeling guilty. Then again, if he had a challenger, his fund raising might really kick into gear and he could gather some real jack. The Democrats had plenty to throw at Johnson in 2002 and Daschle in 2004, where did they go? It was around $25 million and just 1% of that would make the SDDP flush with cash. Did someone loose the call list?

  17. Jenny 2019-10-23 22:15

    I heard that Hillary is seriously interested in running for president again, So she won’t be giving any of her money away.

  18. Neal 2019-10-23 23:35

    I keep telling you guys — the smart thing for Democrats to do is register as Republicans. The Democrat party in SD is dead. RIP.

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-24 05:37

    You know, El Rayo and Roger, I can see some logic in both of your suggestions.

    The SDDP did Team Clinton a big favor, to no benefit for itself. All we got from participating in the Clinton campaign money shuffle was bad press and trouble with the FEC. The debt was not caused by Team Clinton; that’s the fault of the SDDP honchos who mishandled our own money. But Team Clinton could take pity on us, deliver what to them is surely a paltry sum, and get some good press by helping one more state party get back on track to participate meaningfully in a 50-state strategy.

    A bailout from Thune is as unlikely as seeing him at the Governor’s Hunt Saturday in shorts and flipflops. But a wry Republican could make a case for just such largesse. Clearing $47K in debt would make a negligible dent in Thune’s war chest. The donation would not directly aid a single Democratic candidate. With proper spin, Thuen could use the donation to portray himself as a good neighbor who believes firmly in the importance of the two-party system: “Democrats do not agree with us on many issues, but we need a functioning opposition party to keep us on our toes and makes sure we are always responsive to the needs of the public. We don’t want walk-on elections; we Republicans want to see our candidates, our policies, and our values win in a fair fight.”

    But we shouldn’t indulge such thoughts too much: we Dems have a problem with sitting around wishing that some outsider will come save us.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-24 05:40

    Neal, I still can’t recommend the Woster plan. Registering Republican means surrendering decisions and conscience to Dan Lederman and John Thune. We have greater freedom of action acting as complete independents than trying to sway or trick voters with a false R label on our backs. Our activism must be based on integrity; registering under a false party label, with clear intent to deceive, only undermines our credibility and our ability to make change while causing ulcers and zits.

  21. MJK 2019-10-24 06:44

    Randy Seiler is a decent man and will be a good pro-active leader. I support him and he is a professional. We all need to work together in the state. Democracy is and should be a two-party system (& independents) and we all have a right to ‘voice’ as our constitution reads. We never want a dictatorship in the state or DC. Our country was built on ideas; negotiation, cooperation, hard-work, and I am holding on to that.

  22. Debbo 2019-10-24 15:16

    You know Minnesota does not have a Democratic Party. It has the Democratic Farm Labor Party and that’s the official name. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is probably the titular head of the party and leading a refocus on the “Farm” aspect of that.

    SD Democrats who are disenchanted with the state party may want to follow the DFL example. Create an independent political organization and work hard to build it. Perhaps you partner with DRA, LEAD SD, and other progressive/liberal groups to do a new thing. Work hard together, canvas like George McGovern, solicit input, build the organization you want from the ground up.

    There will come a time when the SDDP asks you to join them. You will have the power to set the terms. Democrats for Rural & Urban SD. DRU?

  23. Adam 2019-10-24 21:30

    We will always need, and will always have, a SDDP because the National Party will never allow any state Democratic Party to completely fold.

    What we need right now is some kind of complimentary movement – which harnesses the majority of South Dakotans (Non-Republicans) and aggressively sews seeds of disdain for our SDGOP.

    We need a Non-Republican Party of South Dakota.

  24. grudznick 2019-10-24 21:59

    Mr. Adam, I present to you the Libertarians of South Dakota. grudznick tried to be the Lt. Governor candidate for that party but my coup did not get a good foothold. I still stand by the bulk of their purported planks, but would smash up the Demon Weed plank. If you Democratic Party Members all flock to the Libertarians, just keep in mind they are not “liberal”, they are all about themselves. And try to keep the Devil’s lettuce out of your planks. But they are the number 3 party. Or perhaps now, the number 2 party, in the Great State of South Dakota. Congratulations, Mr. Oakes.

  25. Joe Nelson 2019-10-25 02:30

    I cannot help but chuckle at the thought that a bankrupt Democratic party would potentially turn to a rich white man to bail them out.

  26. Adam 2019-10-25 12:13

    The only way to experience more embarrassment than South Dakota Democrats is to be a South Dakota Libertarian.

  27. Robin Friday 2019-10-26 15:58

    So if the Democrat party in SD is dissolved, how does that affect those of us who are registered Democrat when we go to vote in the primaries next June? If they dissolve and re-invent themselves with a different name, will we have to re-register? I know it sounds dumb, but this is SD. (Flamers need not reply.)

  28. Robin Friday 2019-10-26 16:02

    It’s been said that it really doesn’t matter because Democrats are all but non-existent in SD and we only have three electoral votes, but when I try to put that into my gut, it comes back up again and it’s not a pretty sight. (If we’re non-existent how did Billie Sutton get almost half the votes for governor?)

  29. Robin Friday 2019-10-26 16:08

    Grudzie, I do not believe Democrats flock to Libertarians. If I had to re-register, I would never re-register as Libertarian. In SD and other places, they deservedly have a reputation as Crazies. I’ve been in SD politics for 50 years and I can’t see myself at a Libertarian caucus, if there is such a thing. I suppose I’d re-register as Independent. I realize that’s just me.

  30. Robin Friday 2019-10-26 16:13

    Maybe I’ll build a cabin in MN and register there. Ah, but there goes 20% of SD Dems. And thanks to Trump, I can’t afford it anyway.

  31. Debbo 2019-10-26 16:26

    C’mon over Robin. The light years difference of living in a blue state is shocking at first, but so sweet as you get used to it. 😊

  32. Robin Friday 2019-10-26 16:30

    lol, debbo. . .and my Canadian kids want me to move north. But I can’t see that either. Getting tired of the cold. Thanks anyway. I do love MN. Is Al Franken going to run again? (at the risk of being off-topic).

  33. Porter Lansing 2019-10-26 18:12

    Just an idea, ’cause you know, that’s what I do. How about giving control of the SDDP to the DFL in Minnesota and maybe partnering with the NDDP, too? Letting them run the show for a while, make decisions, spend money on group mailers etc., while the debts get paid and some dignity is restored. Being part of the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party is something to be proud of. Like being part of the AFL-CIO. (It was the foul and lying mailers that Dan “Three Balls” Lederman sends out anonymously from his PAC that destroyed the South Dakota Dem Party.)
    It’s worth asking the DFL if they’d be interesting in adopting their indigent, neighbor child. It would surely p*ss off Pat Powers and that’s always a North star. He’d be a lot less likely to spit on liberals if Minnesota was responding with an iron fist.

  34. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-27 08:46

    Robin, you raise an interesting question. I need to do more legal research to be sure, but here’s my best guess:

    If the SDDP dissolves, there would appear to be no way for the Democratic Presidential candidates to have a primary in South Dakota. There would be no way for them to get delegates from South Dakota. Now if a new liberal party formed, I suppose those Presidential candidates could petition to be in that party’s primary. If the SDDP formally dissolved, all registered Democrats would be thrown automatically into the No-Party-Affiliation category, as Constitution Party registrants were when that party lost its status following the 2018 election. The new liberal party could declare its primary open under South Dakota law, and all of those Democratic registrants could vote in that new-party primary without reregistering.

  35. Curt 2019-10-27 11:40

    It’s finally happened – I agree with Grudznick and disagree with Cory.
    We Dems need to stop navel-gazing and instead re-double whatever efforts we have made in the past on behalf of progress in SD. None of us can honestly believe the Repubs are going to suddenly or spontaneously start advocating for the causes we know are important. That is our role, and anyone looking for proof should spend 2 minutes looking at Trump and his allies on the one hand and our agenda on the other.
    The State Party is suffering the effects of gross malfeasance on the part of some former staff, but those effects will be temporary. Grudznick is correct – Randy Seiler has the intellect and leadership ability to right the ship – and he will, with our support.

  36. Debbo 2019-10-27 18:34

    Robin, I don’t know if Franken will run or not. I haven’t heard any scuttlebutt about plans for anything. Mostly he seems to be feeling sorry for himself and playing the victim.

  37. Robin Friday 2019-10-27 18:56

    I ask because he’s been popping up a bit here and there. I think he was railroaded, so I don’t agree with your assessment, but thanks for your opinion anyway. :-)

  38. Robin Friday 2019-10-27 19:02

    Thanks for your answer, Cory. Now, by “liberal” party, would you mean “progressive”, or is that still a dirty word in SD? Or maybe more likely, a laughable word. That’s ok. We’ve been laughed at before and some of us survived.

  39. Debbo 2019-10-27 19:09

    I believe he sexually harassed the 10+ women who say he did. I’m not sure if he should have resigned, but his pitiful act that he’s playing now in the local media, with no regard for his victims, is getting very tiresome. He’s got $. Is he doing anything to help them? Not that I’ve heard.

  40. Robin Friday 2019-10-27 20:37

    There’s ONE picture taken in jest and the person he was supposed to have “abused” is not to be believed. This man was smeared and there is nothing believable from the rest of them. There is nothing that would stand up in court. Fair is fair, men can be unjustly accused, and this one is unjust. He was forced out without a fair hearing.

  41. Debbo 2019-10-27 22:40

    Robin, that’s the information in Minnesota. I agree the one in the photo is fishy. The others are women who have no agendas, no skanky reputations and nothing to gain. In addition, when Franken apologized, he apologized to the “women” he had not intended to hurt. I’m not sure of the entire quote, but he used the plural “women.” He’s gone with the plural in interviews too.

    I was a Franken fan before any of this started and I stayed on his side until numbers started to pile up. I don’t see him as an old perv like Weinstein. I think Franken just took advantage of white male privilege without a second thought, similar to Biden. Franken felt like he could grab women, pull them close, kiss them, hug them, squeeze their butt, etc– and it was all in good fun. Know what I’m saying? It was fun for Al and his pals, but not for the women and they’re saying so.

    So Franken was not “smeared,” but he should have had his hearing, I agree. I think the Democratic Party now realizes they were too hasty. I believe that’s why Biden gets away with much of the same or similar stuff now.

    My complaint about Franken now is that he is playing the victim, when the women were the victims. How many of them decided to get out of show business so they wouldn’t get “manhandled?” Or how many tried to tell him to stop, but he said, “It’s just a joke,” and they learned they couldn’t stay safe?

    If Franken would be clearer that he was wrong and that he wants to make it right, I’d probably jump right back in his corner. But you ought to see the sad sack, poor Al stuff he’s getting in local publications while the women have been forgotten. Jeez Lou-eez!

  42. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-28 05:52

    Liberal, progressive, honest—it doesn’t matter what word I choose; Dan Lederman and Pat Powers will spin it to mean Communist Anti-Christ.

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